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Alison Ahearn from Imperial College London, has had the satisfaction of seeing many of her students flourish through technical placements abroad.

One of the most memorable placements involved a British student who went on a traineeship in Iran not long after there had been diplomatic issues involving the country.

The student was placed with the research group of an institute charged with working out what was causing concrete railway sleepers to break in the nation’s very arid desert regions.

“The student found himself in remote places, in tough conditions, being treated as a serious co-worker and an honoured guest,” says Alison.

The work was successful, the team identified the defect in the sleepers and its recommendations had a huge impact on the efficiency of the rail service. “The research institute were obviously delighted with him,” says Alison. “His presence created a focus for thinking about what they did, how they did it, why they did it and what they valued from it. The other workers were as intellectually engaged as the student.” From this interaction across borders, students can accelerate their maturity, their development and expand their cultural horizons. 

Alison concluded “The fact that employers in over 80 countries are engaged, that so many students have changed their perspectives and that it is so well organised is a matter that brings benefits and credit, tangible and intangible, to all involved.”

“His entire perspective of Iran shifted in weeks. His stories, on his return, shifted my perspective too.”